It is late at night; the sky is dark. The weather is frigid, and the city is quiet. I stare at the empty sky—without moon and stars. I dislike darkness; it makes me depressed, so I am waiting for a star to twinkle at me.

I can hear the whining of wind, and then the stove in my room turning off. I feel cold, but I continue gazing at the dark sky. The quiet is broken only by the barks of dogs. The mountain of Karte Sakhi, in the middle of Kabul, is lit with colored lamps: white and red and green. It is such an enjoyable moment, seeing this beautiful view of Kabul. Moments like this make me wonder why the people of Afghanistan abandon their country. But it is obvious they want to live in a place with more opportunities, where their children can study in peace, and be away from war. I am overwhelmed with my thoughts and dreams, and remember the story of one of my classmates named Zuhal. It is a sorrowful memory and I get my pen to write this story:

       It was the last days before we would graduate from high school, and everyone was happy. Our school is the largest school in our district, and our campus has a small park with poplar trees. My friends and I decided to go into the park and talk about how to celebrate our graduation party. We strolled through the park, laughing. We carved our names on the trees. It was fall and the park was filled with yellow leaves. The trees looked upset without their leaves, and the branches seemed strange to me; I supposed they might be begging the sky to give back their leaves, or maybe they were complaining to God that the ground had stolen their leaves.

       All of my friends were there except Zuhal. She had been absent for a week, and I asked why she hadn’t been at school. I wanted to call her cell phone. But Sahra, Zuhal’s cousin, said Zuhal had died. I didn’t ask anything more; everyone was shocked. Then Sahra told us the story. “Last week her family prepared to leave Afghanistan and go to Europe illegally, by ship. They sold their house to give money to smugglers.” Sahra insisted that they left their homeland to live in a secure country. But they were unlucky. Their ship sank and no one could find their bodies. Tears fell from Sahra’s eyes and our faces fell; all signs of our happiness disappeared.

Everything became dark for me after that, like tonight’s sky. I cursed the furious waves of the sea, and the winds that had driven them. It wasn’t right for Zuhal to drown, drinking the salty water of the sea. She deserved to survive and thrive. She deserved the opportunity to help develop her country. And not only Zuhal—there are too many people from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq risking their lives to escape from war.

As I was dreaming of a world with lasting peace, a star began twinkling. It was like a hope for me, lighting the sky, a reminder that if we don’t give up, we can also make our world and our country bright; establishing peace so that people want to stay.

By Mahtab

Photo by Afghanistan Matters.